Vice President Kamala Harris answered tough questions and received harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle over her meetings with the Presidents of Mexico and Guatemala this week.
Her first trip to Central America since President Biden tasked her with managing administration policy concerning the flood of migrants at the border got off to a rocky start. Harris’ plane had a technical issue that forced it to return to Washington minutes after takeoff, CBN News reports.
On Monday, she met with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and delivered a stern message to Guatemalans who were thinking about undertaking the arduous journey to the United States. She said, “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
In her personal meetings with Giammetti and with Mexican President Obrador on Tuesday, she pledged to work on what she called “root causes” of the migration to the United States. The United States has pledged to give $310 million to alleviate food shortages in Central America. She also announced that the U.S. will give 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Guatemala and 1 million doses to Mexico.
According to Politico, Harris faced repeated questions about why she has not visited the United States’ border with Mexico, where border agents took more than 110,000 migrants into custody in April, which is the largest number in a decade. She said that she has been to the border before and that this trip was about addressing “root causes.”
When pressed, Harris responded, “I’ve been to the border before. I will go again.” She further explained, “But when I’m in Guatemala dealing with root causes, I think we should have a conversation about what’s going on in Guatemala.” She faced further questions, which prompted her to say, “I think it is short-sighted for any of us who are in the business of problem-solving to suggest that we are only going to respond to the reaction as opposed to addressing the cause.”
The Vice President also faced tough questions from NBC’s Lester Holt about the southern border in a sit-down interview. According to SFGate, he asked, “Why not visit the border?” Harris repeated that she has been to the border before and that she is in Central America to deal with the “reason people are arriving at our border” and then “identify the problem so we can fix it.”
Lester Holt pushed Harris on her response, which led her to say, “This whole thing is about the border, we’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.” “You haven’t been to the border,” Holt retorted. Clearly frustrated with the line of questioning, Harris responded, “And I haven’t been to Europe either. And I mean, I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
Reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about Harris not going to the border and her answers to their colleagues’ questions. Psaki said, “What I would reiterate is that her assignment was to work with countries and leaders in the Northern Triangle (Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras) to address root causes.”
Progressive members of the Democratic caucus also found fault with Harris’s messaging on the trip. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted a video of Harris telling migrants not to come to the United States and said, “This is disappointing to see. First, seeking asylum at any U.S. border is a 100% legal method of arrival. Second, the U.S. spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
This is disappointing to see.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 7, 2021
First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival.
Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing. https://t.co/vADyh5H0bw
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Hector Vivas/Stringer
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”